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You’re listening to Insights at the Edge. Today my guest is Joyce Marter. Joyce is a therapist, entrepreneur, adjunct professor at Northwestern University, and a national speaker. She’s the founder and CEO of Urban Balance, which is a nationwide counseling practice and provides trainings on mental health and success for Fortune 500 companies. With Sounds True, Joyce has written a new book. It’s called The Financial Mindset Fix: Mental Fitness Program for an Abundant Life, where she guides the reader through 12 essential mindsets for transforming your relationship with yourself and with money and financial success.
I got to be honest with you, I always get a little nervous when people start talking about prosperity and financial success. Is it just greed in disguise? Talking with Joyce Marter, it’s clear that her heart wants to empower people to be healthy, wise, and wealthy in the true sense of the word, at peace with money and with their ability to give to others. Here’s my conversation with Joyce Marter.
You’re such an interesting person, Joyce, that you have a foot in two worlds that I don’t think come together that often. On the one foot, you’re planted as a therapist, clinician. At the same time, you’re a businesswoman; you’re an entrepreneur. You write, towards the beginning of your new book The Financial Mindset, “To hell with the message that therapists can’t both help people and make good money.” So, here at the beginning, talk to us how you brought your entrepreneurism and your therapy world together.
Joyce Marter: Well, really, I think it came from my parents. I think we’re all shaped and molded by our family of origin experiences. My mother spent her life studying psychology and spirituality, and my father was an MBA. So, I like to think that I’m a product of both of them.
I have loved working as a therapist. It has such deep meaning to me. It’s been a high honor and such a reward to help people recover and heal and thrive in their lives. As a therapist, I really had a dream of being a business owner. that vision was about basically having work-life balance for myself and have earning income not only when I was seeing my own clients but providing jobs for other great therapists and serving more clients.
It was through my entrepreneurial journey that I really learned about the psychology of money. I started to see in my practice that as my clients were making progress in therapy, they started getting raises and promotions and starting their own businesses. I was like, “Why is this happening?” I realized there’s a powerful connection between our self-worth and our net worth. In therapy we’re always working on people’s underlying self-esteem. We all have self-esteem issues. So, I became really interested in the psychology of money, how our thoughts and emotions and behaviors around money shape our financial reality.
I started to see within myself how I was self-sabotaging and dealing with financial anxiety. I started to apply what I learned from my amazing clients to my own life as an entrepreneur. So, thank you for recognizing that I have my foot in both camps; I love empowering others to promote their mental health and also their financial health through proven tools and strategies from psychology.
TS: You mentioned that you took a lot of the lessons you were learning in your own life and then came to a place where you articulated them and you put them into this new book, The Financial Mindset Fix. You write that you named your financial life at one point Penny, earlier in your life, in your 20s and 30s, that would have been the accurate name. then later in your life you called your financial life Prosperity. I want to understand some in your own life how you went from Penny to Prosperity in terms of your financial life, naming yourself that way.
JM: Yes. I found that naming my financial life is a mindfulness practice and it externalizes your relationship with money. When my financial life would have appropriately been named Penny, it was the result of a number of things. My father had grown up in the Great Depression. He obviously experienced financial trauma and through much of my childhood he was unemployed and clinically depressed because of his unemployment. So, I grew up with a lot of fear and anxiety around money, and that translated into my life as an adult.
When I was in graduate school, the first day they talked about, “You’re not going to make a lot of money in this field.” I had just signed huge student loans. I think our financial life really mirrors our emotional and relational life. I have some tendencies toward low self-esteem and codependent relationships where I don’t always take care of myself and I may over-function in relationships, and that was happening in my business. I was accruing a tremendous amount of debt trying to support my staff and my clients, and really suffering in terms of my own financial wellness. I reached a point, a breaking point where I was in cashflow hell because my practice took insurance. The larger it got, the more money was outstanding in insurance, and it was terrifying. I dealt with insomnia. I dealt with panic attacks.
I dealt with financial shame and anxiety and recognized that it was my ego that was preventing me from accessing support. I had pride. I was afraid that somebody would tell me that my business model didn’t work. I suffered in shame and silence. It wasn’t until I lost my business partner—because our business was in such a dire state, and it was very stressful—that I realized I really needed to open myself up to humility and to talking openly about my financial struggle. When I did that, help and support came out of the woodwork. It’s just like mental health, how sometimes people deal with shame and stigma, and that prevents them from seeking help. I think the same is true with finances.
Once I started talking to friends and family, my leadership team, and my job, and my accountant, and even my neighbors and friends and family, [they] started helping me and supporting me in problem solving how to turn my life around. Obviously, I’m a believer that we all need therapy at different points in our lives. I’ve done a lot of my own personal work on shifting my relationship about my worth and my limits with money. I was able to turn my business around and successfully sell it several years ago for more than I would’ve thought I would’ve made in a lifetime. I went from thinking I would have to file bankruptcy to really transforming to a life of abundance. It was by applying the skills that I learned through my own journey and through my clients. That’s when my money became Prosperity.
TS: Right. There’s a lot there and I want to pull some of it out, but before we do, I want to address that person who says, “Hold on a second. This whole connection between mental health and financial health, I feel a little uncomfortable.” I know some people who have inherited a lot of money and they don’t seem very mentally healthy to me, yet they have a lot of financial health. It seems like having this direct one-to-one correlation is maybe overstated, or maybe they’re not understanding you correctly. I wonder if you could clarify that.
JM: Absolutely. Well, Suze Orman, the financial advisor and author, she said that she noticed that self-worth leads to net worth, but it doesn’t work the other way around. People can have a lot of money and not have self-worth. Self-worth is internal. Our egos identify with our bank accounts and our titles and our external appearance, but our self-worth is internal, and we are all innately deserving of prosperity and abundance.
I’m not saying that financial wellness is going to make you happy. It certainly does reduce your stressors, but there’s a huge relationship right now in the pandemic. People are suffering from financial post-traumatic stress disorder. Things like business decline or unemployment, or losing a home to short sale or foreclosure, those are financial traumas, and they trigger mental health symptoms of trauma, depression, and anxiety. When people suffer from mental health issues, which I think we all do at different points in our lives to various degrees, it negatively impacts how we put ourselves out in the world and how we assert ourselves. It affects our confidence levels and our relationships. If we promote our mental health and our mental fitness just like we would our physical fitness, we can use those psychological strengths to align ourselves with work in the world that is going to better our lives and better our world and we will financially prosper.
TS: OK. I’m going to keep going a little bit down this lane if that’s OK. Do you think it’s possible somebody could have really high, strong self-worth, really strong, they feel good in who they are, but they’re just not interested in the world of financial success? It’s not of interest to them. They’re happy to live simply on very little money. It’s just not part of what they’re interested in. What do you think about that?
JM: To each his own, and I think that it’s most important for people to be content and well, and mentally and physically healthy. But I think that financial health has some criticisms. Sometimes there’s stigma even for people who are wealthy, like that’s bad or that’s selfish or that’s greedy. But my philosophy is that when we work in a way where we are aligning our unique gifts with a need in the world to the greatest extent possible, that we are fostering an abundant life, not only for ourselves, but that there’s a ripple effect of goodness in the world.
You can employ jobs, you can be a philanthropist, you can give to charities, you can volunteer. It’s about living bigger so that we can all be part of positive change in the world. People may not feel like they need more money, but they might not recognize that if they had that, they could be of greater service to causes that are really meaningful and important to them.
TS: Now in the book you go through 12 different mindsets that we can develop that affect our mental health, our relationships, and our prosperity. We’re not going to have time to go into all 12 of them. I’m wondering though, if you were just to describe [to] somebody—you’re like, “Wow, that person has a really healthy financial mindset. Wow, really healthy.” How would you describe such a person?
JM: I think the first thing would be that they have abundant thinking, which is my first chapter. In my practice I noticed such a big difference between people who say, “That’s not possible, I could never do that, that’s not going to work,” and people who blow the ceilings off of self-limitation and think beyond and believe that more is possible. I think cultivating that abundance mindset is so important. In cognitive behavioral therapy they say that our thoughts precede our emotions and our behaviors. If we can shift our thinking to that bigger, more expansive thinking, it can really transform our lives. I think that’s one piece. Another—
TS: Let’s just pause right there. That person who is listening who says, “It’s not realistic for me to be like, ‘The sky is—’ open sky possibility. That’s not my experience. That’s not what’s been happening for me.” I mean, how would you help such a person embrace more of an attitude of possibility?
JM: I love the concepts from narrative therapy that assert that we are both the protagonists and also the author of our own life story. I have a really healthy belief in self-fulfilling prophecy after treating thousands of clients over 20 years. If somebody is telling themselves that that’s not possible for them, it’s not, it’s not going to be. That’s the narrative that they’ve created for themselves. We’ve to be really careful about our money story and our life story and recognize that we have the power to rewrite it and to welcome a greater life of abundance.
TS: OK. Let’s go back to this person who has a very healthy financial mindset. How else would you describe this mythic person?
JM: Yes. We’re all works in progress, right?
JM: My book is very much about balance and addressing these points at different times in your life, etc. But I think another important piece is about being financially conscious, and that involves mindfulness and being present. It’s about being more aware in your financial life. I think many of us suffer from financial denial and we don’t know how much money we owe. We don’t know what interest we’re paying. We aren’t conscious of the fees or maybe our overspending and things like that. So, by applying mindfulness to finance, you can develop more consciousness of your spending, your saving, and your financial plan for the future. I think that’s really important as well.
TS: But let’s talk some about that because I did feel a little bit in going through the book, it definitely got into the nits and grits of my financial life. It was a bit like going to a financial doctor who was taking my temperature and checking out my heart rhythms and palpating. What is the most important kind of the medical exam we need to do on ourselves so that we know we’re being mindful of the most important parts of our financial health?
JM: Well, in the book I have a financial health wheel, and each spoke of the wheel is a different of our financial life. I have a ton of these self-assessment tool-wheels throughout the book. I think those are really great ways to have that financial health, mental health tune-up, and see how you’re doing, and understand your areas of needed growth and work.
I think, in terms of mindfulness—I think it’s so important to apply mindfulness in terms of detachment. Healthy detachment is a mindfulness practice where we’re able to—in a healthy way (it doesn’t mean dissociating or detaching or that we don’t care or are not aware)—[separate] ourselves from the negative emotions about our financial life, to be able to not let those define us, and to manage them to the best of our abilities, to compartmentalize some financial shame or anxiety, and to develop that financial resilience and mental resilience. To be able to move through challenges like many people have experienced during the pandemic and bounce back and come back stronger on the other end.
TS: OK. We’re going to have to spend some time here on this, Joyce, because I think this is really big. A couple of times you’ve mentioned financial shame and financial anxiety, and I think we need to go into both of these. Let’s talk to the person who, when they hear words like “financial shame,” thinks back to some bad decision they made, a bad business deal that they made, something like that. Maybe even shame just about the current state of their finances and the debt that they’re carrying. What’s your suggestion for how they can move through that into a new relationship to those facts of their life?
JM: Well, I think one is another mindfulness strategy which is adopting a growth mindset and recognizing that we’re all works in progress and progress is not linear. We all make mistakes. We all have accidents, injuries, job losses, businesses that don’t work. That’s part of learning and growth and really practicing self-compassion. I have a chapter on self-love. So, really practicing self-forgiveness, and extending yourself the kindness and compassion and empathy that you would extend to somebody you love very much, and taking the wisdom that you gleaned from those experiences.
I think most successful people have had a thousand failures behind them. It’s a journey and it’s a path that has ups and downs. By honoring the shame and recognizing that it’s a normal response to what you’ve been through (our shame is often fueled by our inner saboteur)—I’ve lots of strategies for how to quiet that voice that’s so hard on us and cultivate more self-compassion; that can be a positive coach to help you move through it. I think that is so important. Shame and anxiety breed in isolation. Many of us compare our insides to other people’s outsides. we don’t talk about our financial worries and struggles.
I think we all have them at different points in our lives. […] I had horrible financial anxiety and financial shame. When I first went to talk to a CPA and get help, I handed over my QuickBooks file and I was crying. I was shaking. I was crying. I was embarrassed. I felt poorly about myself. He was so kind and compassionate and really helped and supported me. If I had not transcended that barrier to accessing support, if I hadn’t moved through my shame, my business would have folded. I would not have been able to sell it the way that I did several years later. I really encourage people to just extend themselves a lot of self-compassion. We’re all works in progress. We are all imperfect and it’s OK. There are tools and skills that you can develop to move forward in a positive direction.
TS: Now, you mentioned your inner saboteur. Tell me more about that. I read that you had a nickname for her too, that you call her Zelda, and I thought, “That’s funny.” How come you call her Zelda? How do you know when Zelda has taken the wheel and is driving?
JM: We all have an inner critic. It’s that voice in our head that sometimes it comes from our parents, our past relationships, from religious or cultural teachings that is very, very hard on us. oftentimes we speak to ourselves like we would nobody else. So, again, with cognitive behavioral therapy, we want to become aware of our self-talk and how negative self-talk really puts our self-esteem down and negatively impacts how we put ourselves out in the world.
I feel like naming your inner critic—which, by the way, I adopted that from RuPaul’s Drag Race (RuPaul has the queens name their inner saboteurs and dress like them)—I thought that’s brilliant, because it’s a mindfulness strategy that helps you externalize that part of yourself and recognize how it’s negatively impacting your life. I mentioned this during an interview with a journalist from Bustle, and she said that sounds kind of absurd, but also interesting. She said she did it for a week. She kept a journal, and she wrote this hilarious article about how she named her negative thoughts Terry for a week, and she felt so much better. Her therapist said it helped her make tremendous progress. By naming your inner saboteur you become aware of how you’re self-sabotaging.
I think our inner saboteur probably isn’t going to go anywhere. It’s always going to have a seat at the table, but we can choose to turn down the volume of that inner critic. I named mine Zelda, like you said, and that’s just a funny name I used in my childhood when playing imaginary games with friends. It’s helpful to notice when Zelda’s popping up in my life and to tell her to “back off—I’ve got stuff to do,” and to practice being more compassionate to myself in the way that I am for my clients. I think a lot of times in my work with my clients, they end up replacing their inner critic hopefully with some of my voice, which is affirming and empathic and empowering. Eventually that becomes their self-talk and then our work is done.
TS: You mentioned in the same section of the book where you’re talking about the inner saboteur, that potentially we could call on what you call an inner dream team. That there’s part of us… In addition to the critic, these parts we may not be as familiar with. you talk about a positive coach inside of us, a best friend inside of us and a loving parent. I’m wondering if we could go through an example. Maybe somebody is listening to this and they’re feeling—I’m just going to make something up—they’re feeling a lot of shame about overspending, spending more money than they actually have. They’re listening to this Financial Mindset Fix and they’re like, “Ah, I don’t want to get the real mindfulness facts about how much money I have in the bank. I know it’s a negative number.” They’re wanting to tell their inner saboteur, “Be quiet”, but they don’t have their dream team online. What would these three figures say to help this person?
JM: What would you say to your best friend if your best friend said, “Hey, I have $100,000 of debt”? You wouldn’t say, “Oh my gosh, you screwed up. What’s wrong with you?” That’s what your inner critic would say. Your best friend would say, “You know what? It’s OK. You’ve done the best that you can. You’ve accomplished so many great things. This happens to a lot of people.” They would be normalizing and supportive and compassionate, recognizing that we have the choice of either being our worst critic or our kindest best friend. Our loving parent, a good parent would want you to have financial security and wellness and money as a resource to take care of [yourself].
A good parent would want you to have insurance and savings and things like that. It’s about becoming financially literate. That part would encourage you to move forward in those areas. The positive coach is a personal trainer or someone that’s going to hold you accountable and hold your hand and support you along the way as you try to shift your financial life from one of struggle to one of prosperity and thriving.
TS: Now, Joyce, at this point you’ve worked with, as you’ve said, hundreds and hundreds of different people on the psychology of money, as their practicing therapist. When someone comes to you, when do you know, “Oh, this is the turning point.” They’re on their way out of the bottom and they’re going to be moving into a better place. Is there a turning point you’ve been able to identify, or does it not really work like that?
JM: I think there is one significant turning point, and I went through it myself in my own therapy. I think that a lot of us spend a lot of time talking about other people. When I first started therapy, my mother starred in every session. Then I talked a lot about my ex-husband, and it wasn’t until I talked about myself that my life began to change. When we stop blaming and we practice acceptance and forgiveness, and we free ourselves of those narratives of how other people might have impacted us, we can then empower ourselves to take responsibility for our future going forward. That’s a really important turning point, when we’re willing to take an honest look at ourselves instead of blaming external forces, like the economy, or your age, or your relationships, or the past, and you say, “You know what? I have some of these issues, some of the self-sabotage that we all do as part of being a human being, and I have the ability to change that.”
TS: That’s very helpful. Yes. That’s very profound. That’s very helpful.
You mentioned that you went through a difficult breakup with your former business partner, and in the book you write about how it was quite a journey for you to move through the blame and the resentment you had towards her for the way that your business partnership ended. I’m curious to know more about that for people who are like, “Well, I know I had a role, but I’m still fixated on the role they had because they had a really big role. It’s because of them that I’m in the situation I’m in. I know I had a small part, but they had a big part.” How do we move further? If you could share some from your own story of how you went through that to the other side.
JM: Well, that was a really traumatic loss for me. In my mind, I would have much rather filed business bankruptcy than lost my relationship with my friend. The betrayal of her leaving the business was like a spouse moving out in the middle of the night. it was a shock. I was experiencing grief and loss and a lot of fear about how I was going to run my company on my own. I had a lot of people leave. We were in a dire financial situation. I was hurt and I was angry and you’re right, when we’re in that space, we can blame the other person. I think relationship problems are 50/50, and we all have a part. I do a lot of couples therapy, and my part—there were a lot of mistakes that I made.
I didn’t seek proper business and financial consultation as I mentioned because of fear and pride. The result of that was losing my business partner. Had I asked for support sooner, we may not have been in that cashflow hell, and she may not have been in a state where she was feeling so overwhelmed that she needed to leave to take care of herself. There are other ways that I know I didn’t operate in a healthy way in that relationship. I believe relationships come into our lives for a reason, even relationships that end or have a traumatic incident in them. There’s a lot of blessings that come from the learning. I’ve learned a lot about forgiving myself, working toward forgiving her, which is an ongoing process, and continuing to grieve that loss and going through the loss of a business partnership.
I don’t think people talk a lot about the business divorce, and it is such a common thing that people go through and it’s very painful. But yes, we have to be willing to look at our own stuff. For me, part of the blessing of that experience is that I learned for the first time that I was capable of flying solo. Prior to that, I really felt like I needed a crutch, that codependent part of me needed a sidekick for validation and support. Really being forced to take the helm by myself, I learned to believe in myself a lot more and to trust my decision-making and I grew a tremendous amount.
Even though it looked like a very negative event, I think some really important positive things came from it, including I think that was the precursor to helping me know that I was capable of leaving a marriage that was no longer working for me, which was a painful decision. But I think I learned through my business experience that I could do it and I could rebuild afterwards. That was incredibly freeing and transformative in my life.
TS: Just to get in there for a moment, because you mentioned working on forgiving her and how we’re all works in progress. It sounds like you’ve maybe forgiven her a whole heck of a lot but not 100 percent. I don’t know. That sounds pretty normal to me, but I wonder, do you have some idea like, “I’m going to get to 100 percent and that’s my goal”? Or are you like, “Look, this is pretty gosh darn good where I’m at compared to where I was, and I’m good with it. And it’s all right. It’s real”?
JM: I would say I’m at about 90% and that it still bothers me. Because of that, I know I have more psycho-spiritual work to do on that. I do spend a lot of time reflecting on my role in this—even that I wrote about her in the book. My intention for that was to share the lessons that I learned. But I also have to ask—is that part of my anger coming out?—and work at […] being better at forgiveness and letting go. In my meditations and in my prayer time, I definitely focus on sending her blessings and well-wishes, and having mantras that I forgive her and release her. I think a lot of it too is forgiving and releasing those parts of myself and trusting that we are both on our paths and hopefully that we’ve each helped each other grow in some very important ways.
TS: Such an honest and terrific answer. Thank you, Joyce.
JM: Thank you.
TS: Thank you. OK. I want to talk more—here we go—about financial anxiety. In the book you teach an exercise called “the container.” I wonder if you can share that with people who are listening, who are like, “God, things are so uncertain,” or, “I’m just the person who has a lot of anxiety about money. That’s just how I am. I’ve been that way.” How could they use this container exercise to help them?
JM: So the container exercise is something that I learned when I studied EMDR, which is a trauma protocol. It basically is a visualization exercise where you get yourself in a grounded and mindful space, maybe doing some deep breathing or a short meditation practice and you visualize your thoughts and your worries, and then maybe any negative emotion that you’re holding in your body, any yuck about the particular situation. you imagine that you’re putting it inside of a container of your choice. you can make it as big and strong as you want so that you feel like that container can hold that negative emotion. you imagine putting it in that container and locking it.
Some people blast it out in outer space or imagine sinking it to the bottom of the sea and releasing it and then clearing your energy, clearing your mind and body of those emotions, and knowing that you can revisit them when you need to. Again, with mindfulness—we spend a lot of time worrying about the future—and peace can be found in the present moment. When we can take those future worries and visualize tucking them away securely, we can ground ourselves in the peace of the present moment.
TS: [Yes.] Now, here’s my confessional moment—and it leads to a question. My confessional moment is I’ve been quite successful financially, and I have a lot of financial anxiety—both. Both are true. My anxiety, I don’t have a good reason for it. When I bring my mind into it, I’m like, “You have no reason to be anxious.” But I can feel it. I feel it in my body.
I pulled this quote from the book: “Taking risks and managing uncertainty is what people do on the road to success.” I thought it’s so important actually that we know how to work with financial anxiety. If we’re going to grow a business, we have to be able to take greater and greater risks. I wonder if you can talk some about that for yourself. You’ve taken a lot of risks in growing your business. Tell us about that and how you work with your own financial anxiety when it comes up related to risks.
JM: Absolutely. First, thank you for sharing that you deal with financial anxiety despite having financial prosperity, and you’re not alone. I’ve had clients who have had hundreds of millions of dollars and worry about their liquidity or worry about their children or various things. Our financial anxiety and our worries are not always rational. That’s where we need to have these tools to manage them. Then, in terms of financial risk, yes, as an entrepreneur you’re investing, or even if—let’s say you’re investing in the stock market, or you’ve bought a home and you’re investing in real estate, there’s always risk. We need to develop that healthy detachment to be able to zoom out and not ride all the ups and downs. It’d be like if you invested in the stock market and a stock went down in a day and you have a lot of panic, you have to be able to detach and take a step back and trust in the process.
I had people say to me, “Do you worry about the fact that you’ve built your business on being insurance friendly and that healthcare is of great uncertainty in our country?” I said, “Actually, no,” because I feel like if we worry about all of those things, we can’t stay on our path. I think it’s that risk that keeps so many people from moving towards something that could really bring great prosperity for themselves. It’s a skill where you have to be able to detach. I remember telling my best friend that I had just put a $50,000 loan on my home, a lien on my home, a business loan. I was feeling so anxious about that.
She said, “Would it help you if I told you that my husband has $300 million in loans.” I said, “Dear God.” He’s an enormously successful commercial real estate person. You have to be able to separate a little bit from that risk and know that in some ways money is an illusion, and focusing on your deeper self, your path, your alignment with your gifts and the need in the world, and trust in the process and your ability to be resilient and move through those storms.
TS: OK. Well, hold on. “In some ways, money is an illusion.” I might be able to go with you there and know what you mean—and let’s find out in a moment—but I’m imagining some people are like, “Look, money is not an illusion. Money’s the actual hard, concrete thing I need right now. Maybe it’s an illusion to you. It’s a necessity for me.”
JM: It absolutely is a necessity. As soon as that came out of my mouth, I was like, “Oh, boy.” I can see how that could be challenging, but that’s something that I told myself when I thought that I was going to have to file business bankruptcy. I was feeling shame and anxiety about that and a crisis of self-confidence. I thought, “You know what? I’m breathing. I have my health. I have people who love me. I believe in a kind and compassionate world, and I believe resources are available. I believe in recovery and resilience of the human spirit. I’m not going to let my mind allow my money problems to define me. My money problems are how I am, they’re not who I am.”
In that way, I think it’s an illusion in that sometimes we let money define our happiness, our wellness, our success, our identity. I don’t think that’s what life is really about. I think money is energy. It’s a resource, and it ebbs and flows like other resources, like breath and love. We need to engage in it. We need to lean into it and cultivate that abundance.
TS: OK. Previously in our conversation you were talking about how, particularly post-pandemic, lots of people are suffering from some form of what we could call financial PTSD. In the book you offer this statistic: 23 percent of adults and 36 percent of millennials experience financial stress at levels that qualify for a diagnosis of PTSD. First of all, it’s a really big deal. That’s a lot of people who are—
JM: That was pre-pandemic data.
TS: —[Yes.] Those numbers. Yes. Then you write, “To recover from financial PTSD we need to detach our worth from money.” I thought to myself, “Easier said than done.” I mean, everything in our culture tells us that money and our worth as a person are intimately linked. We hold up the people who are wealthy and call them celebrities. How do we do it? How have you done it? Have you really done it? People say, “Well, you can have a lot of money and say, ‘Yeah, my worth’s separate.’” Well, it’s easy when you have plenty of money—you can say that because you have plenty of money.
JM: Right. Right. We’re all works in progress. I can’t say I’ve completely done that, but I think it’s something that we need to keep in mind. I’ve worked with a number of clients who dealt with suicidal ideation because of financial struggle or fear. That’s where I really have worked with them on, again, the mindfulness connection. Money and our titles and our bank accounts, all of those externals are part of our ego, our mind’s definition of ourselves. Our essence or our true self or our soul is the deeper spiritual aspect of ourselves, and I believe the truer aspect of ourselves. When we can practice mindfulness and we can connect with that deeper light within and observe the mind’s thoughts about money and how that relates to our worth and our identity—that’s what I think is an illusion.
One of my clients said to me—she’s 65, she hasn’t saved for retirement, she has a physical disability, and her partner just left her, and she’s having extreme financial anxiety—after some of our work, she said, “Joyce, you’ve helped me realize I have so many internal resources and internal riches: […] I have my intelligence, I have my humor, I have my emotional intelligence. I have my wisdom.” Using that to define who she is, has helped her manage some of the crushing financial fears.
TS: [Yes.] You write in the book about the power of reframing financial challenges in some way to see them as another you-know-what opportunity—but you know what I’m saying. Give me some examples of presenting financial challenges and how you’ve been able to help people reframe what’s happening in their life, so they see it differently.
JM: Yes, absolutely. On a number of levels, I think I’ve worked with a lot of clients who’ve experienced financial trauma in terms of growing up in poverty or other closings of businesses and things like that. It’s so important to help people recover and move through that by honoring their experiences. We’re all shaped and molded by our earlier life experiences and our family experiences, and our families have beliefs about money, and we’ve often taken on some of those money feelings, and that affects our money story. We need to honor that and then also empower ourselves to rewrite it by using some of these skills in the book and change that financial reality.
TS: Another thing, Joyce, that I want to talk to you about—you’ve mentioned it a couple of times—is this notion of financial resilience, and you quote the Harvard Business Review: “More than education, more than experience, more than training, an individual’s level of resilience will define who succeeds and who fails.” What do you think makes someone really financially resilient?
JM: I think that that Harvard Business Review was talking about psychological resilience. I think the financial resilience goes hand in hand. The research explains that people who have had high trauma but also have high support are the most resilient. People who have had low trauma haven’t had those challenges that are opportunities for growth and learning. When we go through difficulty and we come out the other side, there’s gifts of wisdom and also strength in knowing that we can persevere, and we can overcome other challenges that come our way. Financial resilience is the ability to move through financial storms, like a housing market crash, like what happened in 2008, or the pandemic.
Financial resilience involves financial planning, having reserves, having savings, having insurance, and things so that if there is some kind of catastrophe that you will be able to move through it and bounce back and recover. Financial resilience involves some preparation and that’s part of financial self-care. It’s about caring enough about yourself to take care of your future self so that you can be resilient down the road.
TS: I’m wondering if you could share with us a client story that you think is a really good emblematic example of your work with them on the psychology of money and The Financial Mindset Fix. Like, “Here’s where the person came in and here’s the work we did and what the result was.”
JM: Well, I think The Financial Mindset Fix is a financial program, but it is also a mental health program. The two go hand in hand. In the “Compassion” chapter of my book, I share the story of a special client named Suma. Suma had experienced trauma in her family of origin. She had experienced domestic violence. She ended up in an abusive marriage. She had self-esteem issue. And through some really brave and courageous work in her therapy, she did so much healing on herself and her self-love and her ability to take care of herself. That had a profound impact on her career. She went back to graduate school. She ended up starting her own business. She became so much more assertive and empowered. She was negotiating. She was believing in herself. Not only emotionally and relationally did she bravely transform her life, but it had a financial impact as well.
She continues to just thrive and rock it out. I have great deep love for her. Each client that I’ve worked with it, I’ve learned from their journey as well. It helps me help other people through my speaking engagements and through the book and things. Different clients in different ways. I had one client that grew up in poverty and she had some hoarding behaviors because of living in scarcity in the past. We had to work with her on trusting in the flow of money and trusting in her ability to care for herself so that she could have financial peace. Another person who went back to school negotiated a promotion in her life and higher salary and things and was able to provide a home and a lifestyle that was so far beyond what she grew up with, which was deeply healing for her in so many different ways.
TS: You brought up this word, I remember now, “negotiating”—because in the book, as you mentioned, there are these different wheels that you fill out. Every chapter is a self-assessment, self-look in the mirror and see where you are on all of these different factors of your mental, emotional, relational, and financial health. When it got to the section about negotiation, I got very low scores, because I hate to negotiate. I hate it. I loathe it. I’m a weenie at it. I say to myself, “Tami, you’re going to have to put on your big girl pants today and negotiate this situation.” What could make somebody like me better at negotiating? What’s the mindset fix that I need?
JM: First, it’s knowing that you’re deserving and advocating for yourself in a way that you would for somebody you love very much. It’s about having healthy boundaries in your financial relationships that show respect for yourself and respect for the other person. I talk in the “Essence” chapter about healthy self-esteem and finding that healthy self-esteem where we’re assertive, where we advocate for ourselves in a way that’s direct and honest and clear. I think as women especially we’re socialized not to negotiate; we’re socialized to be people pleasers and good girls.
I attended a lecture with the sociologist that helped Sheryl Sandberg with her book Lean In, and she was explaining that women don’t negotiate typically. It’s a skill that needs to be developed. I encourage people [to take] baby steps. It might be, for example, you’re leasing or buying a car and you negotiate that they throw in the free car mats or the racks that you want on top of the car, or you’re negotiating rent and you ask them for the first month of rent free, or you’re negotiating at a store. I once bought patio furniture and I asked them if they could throw in the covers that were a few $100 and do free delivery. I got those things.
Once you succeed in that, it’s very empowering. As cheesy, I think, sometimes Dr. Phil is, I like that he says, “The most that you get is what you ask for.” Sometimes we shoot ourselves in the foot by asking for so much less than we deserve. Again, when we have more, we can give more. I have obviously been a therapist for so many people—students and people that I’ve mentored—and I role play negotiation and help them with that and help them develop the tools and the language and the confidence to be able to do that. I’m a big believer in having heroes. If you know someone in your life who’s good at that, act as if you’re them and taking on their bravery and using their language and words, until you can really hone and cultivate that skill for yourself.
TS: Very helpful. OK, Joyce, I’m going to ask you another question. I’ve heard different people say that if you want to have—we’ll use your word—more prosperity, or the “abundance” word, you can visualize yourself experiencing what it is you want. If it’s a certain amount of financial success, you can visualize as if it’s already here, it’s already happening. I noticed I have this mixed response to that. There’s a part of me that’s like, “But it’s not happening. What am I doing? I’m doing some exercise. I don’t believe in this exercise. People do it and then it doesn’t come true for them. Is this really a useful exercise?” Anyway, what do you have to say about that?
JM: Well, I think that we have to visualize where we’re going, where we want to go. If you had a magic wand, in the most ideal situation, what would you want? That magic wand question, the miracle question is a tool in therapy, and it reveals what people truly want. Oftentimes we settle for a much smaller version of that for ourselves and that’s us setting our own ceilings. By doing that [exercise] you’re expanding your thinking. You’re starting to welcome the possibility that that could happen. It’s about trying it on. I talk about an Adlerian practice in psychology that is called “act as if.” I did a workshop once where I had the people act as if they had achieved the success that they wanted to achieve and to go around the room and talk to other people and introduce themselves in that way.
People were so uncomfortable. It took me a while to get them out of their seats. They were like, “Oh my gosh, are you sure? I’m going to be embarrassed to admit what I want.” Again, shame creeping up. But once people started owning it and walking around the room and saying, “Yeah, I am a Pulitzer Prize winning author, or I am the owner of a global company,” they were standing taller. They were getting so excited, and I couldn’t get them to stop talking. I think it’s about trying it on. I did that.
My book, Tami, I don’t know if you know this, but it was rejected for a lot of years. I walked around my house and I said, “I am like Brené Brown. I am a speaker–author.” My friend accused me of psychotic optimism, but I truly believe that by trying that on and believing in myself that that was possible, it really helped me persevere to rework my proposal and keep putting myself out there and be resilient until I found Sounds True.
TS: That’s a beautiful story. Finally, Joyce, what is your greatest hope that people will get as they go through The Financial Mindset Fix and do the practices and engage with the many assessment tools, growth tools? What’s your hope for people with this book?
JM: Again, I’m grandiose in my thinking. My greatest hope is that this is going to provide mental health and financial health recovery, and resilience for people around the world. We’ve been living through a mental health and financial health global crisis, and this is a practical tool that I hope will be inspiring and empowering and a resource that people can go back to again and again as they deal with different challenges in their lives. It’s been my heart’s desire to get this out in the world.
TS: I’ve been talking with Joyce Marter. She’s the author of the new book, The Financial Mindset Fix: A Mental Fitness Program for an Abundant Life. Get the book and get in there. it’s really all about the work that’s here and what it can deliver. Thank you so much.
JM: Thank you, Tami.
TS: Thank you for listening to Insights at the Edge. You can read a full transcript of today’s interview at SoundstTrue.com/Podcast. If you’re interested, hit the Subscribe button in your podcast app. Also, if you feel inspired, head to iTunes and leave Insights at the Edge a review. I love getting your feedback, being in connection with you and learning how we can continue to evolve and improve our program. Working together I believe we can create a kinder and wiser world. SoundsTrue.com: waking up the world.